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Accusations fail to deter housing authority, 5H program OK'd

March 09, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Employees of the Housing Authority, as well as a group of its residents, are accusing authority commissioners of deception and discrimination in their handling of a program meant to allow the low-income families of Casas Del Sol to purchase the units they now rent.

Despite the charges levied against the board, it approved the implementation of the 5H home ownership program in a 3-2 vote.

Although the Calexico Housing Authority board approved the program, the residents of Casas del Sol aren't buying it.

Residents say there is no proof that the 5H plan has in fact been approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the federal agency that makes the program a reality.

If the program has not been approved by HUD, residents said it will be another example of how the board has misled Casas del Sol residents for the past eight years.


If it is approved, Casas del Sol residents could start purchasing their homes as early as this summer, if those residents qualify.

Housing Authority board Chairman John Romo and commissioners Jose Quiroz and Gloria Rodriguez voted to approve the plan.

Commissioners Jesus "Chuy" Solano and Manuel Ayala voted against approval.

Solano said he voted in protest against the plan because approving it means nothing if HUD requires more modifications to the 5H program.

Both Casas residents and authority commissioners demanded on Thursday copies of HUD's official approval when or if it is received by Housing Authority Executive Director Lupita Rios.

Other issues surrounding the board's handling of the program's application process caused conflict.

Juan Ortiz, administrative services director for the Calexico Housing Authority, said employees of the authority have done nothing wrong but have been made scapegoats by members of the board for the eight-year delay in the processing of the application paperwork.

"Commissioners of the board have publicly made comments accusing (the administrative staff) of corruption and negligence," he said.

"That's a lie!" Ortiz added.

At Tuesday's Calexico City Council meeting, a hearing for March 20 was set to determine if the charges against the Housing Authority are serious enough to require the City Council to step in and replace the entire board or individual commissioners.

"This hearing won't be a matter of fairness," Ortiz said. "It will be a matter of three votes (of the council)."

In related matters, the Calexico Resident Council attempted to have an emergency item placed on Thursday's agenda that could have earmarked authority funding for the purchase of two newspaper ads.

The ads are being requested by the Resident Council in order to rebut a similar advertisement taken out in Sunday's edition of this newspaper by Housing Authority commissioners Romo, Rodriguez, Quiroz and Isabel Aguilar.

The emergency item never made the agenda as the commission voted 3-2 to not discuss the issue. The issue will be discussed at the next Housing Authority meeting. However, no date has yet been set.

Ema Silva, secretary of the Calexico Resident Council, lobbied the board for the emergency vote so the residents of the Casas projects could respond to Sunday's ad.

The Housing Authority commissioners' ad stated in a letter the charges against the board are "unfounded." It also stated the eight-year delay in the approval of the home ownership plan was "frustrating."

Romo and Rodriguez said the bickering between the board and the residents needs to end.

After the 3-2 vote, Maria Gasca, a resident of the Housing Authority, declared on behalf of the residents that they were being discriminated against.

"If they feel that they are being discriminated against, they can complain to HUD," Romo said.

At Thursday's meeting the board also listened to a presentation by Alex Perrone, a Calexico businessman, who works with a company that has pledged to provide jobs to Calexico citizens.

Perrone said the company, Los Angeles-based U.S. Data Source, would provide data-entry training for residents beginning March 12.

"Thirty people will be hired by June 1 and 100 by the end of the year," Perrone said.

Earlier this week, U.S. Data Source donated 18 computers and 18 desks worth an estimated $20,000 to the Housing Authority.

Residents asked Perrone to make sure flyers and promotional materials in Spanish were provided to the residents informing them of the training sessions.

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